Virtual Desktops in Mac OS X
A colleague of mine is a recent Mac switcher and he was complaining to me that virtual desktops are not included in Mac OS X, the irony is that they are, they just have the name Spaces (coming from a heavy Linux background, I guess the naming convention just threw him off). Virtual Desktops are a very common and popular feature in most Unix GUI’s, but as Mac OS X has included virtual desktops within Mac OS X too.
Instead of being called “Virtual Desktops” though, Apple named them “Spaces”, but the concept is identical, multiple virtual workspaces on one machine. Spaces in Mac OS X lets you have up to 16 different workspaces to work within, you can even designate specific applications to run just within a particular space, which is very handy for creating a tidy work environment.
Spaces is Virtual Desktops in OS X
In modern versions of OS X, this feature is part of Mission Control, whereas in prior versions it’s part of Expose. Nonetheless, virtual desktops work in Mac OS X the same way.
In OS X El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, the feature is part of Mission Control, here’s how you can adjust the preferences for it:
- Open Apple menu and go to System Preferences, then go to “Mission Control”
- Set your Mission Control shortcut accordingly to your preferences to access the feature
Once you have Spaces configured, you can access the feature through a keyboard shortcut, a gesture, or by sending apps into full screen mode. You can also move apps or windows into new spaces to create a new desktop quickly from Mission Control.
Configuring your virtual desktops in prior versions of Mac OS X is really easy too, including Snow Leopard and Leopard, just launch the System Preferences and click on the ‘Expose & Spaces’ icon, where you’ll see a screen with various options, including how many virtual workspaces you want to use, what applications are assigned to which spaces, and what keystrokes activate the Spaces virtual desktop switcher. (see screenshots)
Spaces is definitely a largely underused feature of Mac OS X, but power users and those familiar with the virtual desktops of Linux workstations will be very happy to know they are included in Mac OS X. If you haven’t used them yet, give it a shot, you may be surprised how helpful you find virtual desktops, or Spaces, to be.
Remember, in new versions of OS X you access Spaces from Mission Control, and the different virtual desktops are laid across the top of the screen in succession. Full Screen Apps each get assigned their own virtual desktop space as well.